HC orders state to save kids from malnutrition

Taking cognisance of MiD DAY's reports on malnourishment deaths in rural Maharashtra, Bombay High Court has asked the government to devise an action plan and submit a detailed report by the first week of December 
Taking cognisance of the high rates of infant mortality caused by malnutrition in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court has ordered the government to design an action plan to salvage the situation and submit a detailed response before the next hearing, scheduled for the first week of December.

Alarming: MiD DAY's sustained coverage has focussed on the spate of
malnutrition deaths in the state, with 619 children dying of hunger in
Nashik alone last year. File pic

In its extensive coverage, MiD DAY had had reported on the spate of malnutrition deaths in the state, with 619 children dying of hunger in Nashik alone last year ('619 babies died hungry last year,' September 4).

The court took note of the situation while hearing a petition filed by social activist Poornima Upadhyay, in connection with malnutrition deaths in the Melghat district. In order to strengthen her petition, Upadhyay produced the MiD DAY reports before the court. The division bench -- comprising Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Dr D Y Chandrachud -- has appointed senior lawyer Gayatri Singh as the amicus curiae in the case.

A large number of malnutrition deaths has also been reported in Amravati, and Nagpur, making it amply clear that the benefits made available through various schemes devised by the Central and state governments to curb malnutrition is not percolating down to grass-root levels.

The petitioners have also requested for a high-level supervisory authority to be appointed as nodal officer, to ensure that the schemes are implemented. The court has appointed a high-ranking IAS official to look into the Melghat case.

Officials respond
In the meantime, the district health officer of the Zilla Parishad in Nashik has issued a detailed report to the government, in response to the critical questions raised by the MiD DAY reports.

In its report published on September 4, MiD DAY had reported that 619 children below the age of one had died in the Nashik district in the past year. The number quoted by the health officer in his response is 657, for the duration between April and October 2011.

In the same report, MiD DAY had revealed that 139 pregnant woman in Nashik had died in past year, with 1,005 miscarriages being reported.

In the health officer's response, 76, and not 139 women died during pregnancy, with 1,375 spontaneous and 2,126 induced abortions being reported in the district, as per the data entered in the health management information system.

While admitting that the incidence of pre-natal deaths had escalated in the last three years, the report attributed it to improved reporting of maternal deaths.

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